KENOSHA — Devon Polk, Keri Berkowitz and Ani Buchaklian were the perfect combination for the St. Catherine’s High School girls soccer team Saturday.
The three seniors ran a perfectly executed play in the second half, resulting in the game-winning goal for the Angels in a 2-1 victory over Prairie in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final at Carthage College. It was the third meeting between the two teams this season and St. Catherine’s second victory over Prairie (the other game was a tie).
The victory sends St. Catherine’s (22-1-2), which has a 23-match unbeaten streak, into a WIAA State Tournament semifinal against New Holstein (18-3-3) in a Division 4 semifinal match at noon Thursday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. It will be the Angels’ first trip to state since 2007. New Holstein beat Howards Grove 1-0 in two overtimes in another sectional final.
Prairie, which advanced to state three times since 2010, finishes the season 15-8-1.
With the match tied at 1-1, St. Catherine’s had the ball deep in Prairie’s end of the field. Before Polk threw the ball in, she and Berkowitz talked about a play where Berkowitz bends her run downfield inside and finds some space. Berkowitz made a perfect run, passed the ball just out of the reach of Prairie goalkeeper Becky Kann and Buchaklian hit a left-footed shot into the open net for a 2-1 Angels lead.
“She bent her run inside, which left the whole front post open,” Polk said. “She could just run toward the keeper and slot it across and one of the people running on the back could just put it in the back of the net.”
That turned out to be Buchaklian, who scored the first game-winning goal of her career.
“Five minutes before (the play), coach (Ben Lake) said to make the inside run because they would cross the ball with me going inside,” Buchaklian said. “The defender would give me the perfect place to shoot the ball and it came to me and I put it in.
“It was crazy — usually during practice, it comes to me and I shoot it over the net, so I was like, ‘Calm down,’ and I just kicked it in.”
The Angels, the top-ranked team in Division 4 in the final Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association state poll of the season, pulled off the victory despite playing with just 10 players. Midway through the first half, junior defender Chandler Brewster tripped Prairie freshman forward Hannah Compernolle on a breakaway. Brewster received a direct red card for the foul and had to leave the game.
St. Catherine’s wasn’t sure what was going to happen after losing Brewster.
You have free articles remaining.
“I thought, ‘aw, what are we going to have to do?’ ” Berkowitz said. “But we got together. Our fitness really paid off.”
Prairie, which was ranked second in Division 4 in the final WSCA state poll, didn’t score off the subsequent free kick, but did score the first goal of the match with 4:19 left in the first half. Junior forward Annabel Ware sent a ball into the box and Compernolle tapped the ball just before running into Angels goalkeeper Maddie Shea. The ball rolled slowly to the goal and crossed the line just before another St. Catherine’s player could get to it.
Berkowitz tied the match with 2:01 left in the first half on a penalty kick after Prairie sophomore defender Cali Pfleger stuck her leg out to reach for the ball and tripped Angels junior midfielder Sydney Smith. Pfleger received a yellow card and on the penalty kick, Berkowitz struck the ball to Kann’s left inside the right post.
The Hawks had the majority of possession and had some close calls in the second half, but just couldn’t score again.
“It’s tough, because we were generating chances going forward and we had the opportunities,” Prairie coach Corey Oakland said. “But we’ve seen these games before.
“We’ve said we’ve been balancing on the edge of a sword this year and unfortunately, we’ve fallen off the wrong side.”
Prairie senior midfielder Megan Wolf, who has helped the Hawks to state the previous two years, commended the Angels, who beat the Hawks twice this season.
“They have girls on that team who are never going to give up and they’re not going to keel over because they’re down one player,” Wolf said.
St. Catherine’s 2, Prairie 1 — St. Catherine’s goals-assists: Berkowitz (penalty kick), Buchaklian (Berkowitz). Prairie goal-assist: Compernolle (Ware).